Kiss Democracy Good-Bye...
How the Robets Supreme Court arrived at the worst decision since DreddScott
... thanks to yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v FEC.
Now Corporations can expend unlimited amounts of money - shareholders' money, that if funneled through lobbyists can be deducted from their taxable income as a "business expense" - to promote and elect candidates they believe will do their bidding, and oppose and defeat those who stand up to them. This gives the force of law to the "New Golden Rule" tacitly subscribed to by the Neo-Con plutocrats: "Those who have the gold get to make the rules."
The conservative majority - the same five judges who gave us the illegal and misguided decision in Gore v. Bush that for the first time in history took the decision in a Presidential election out of the hands of the electorate - have now decided that it is "unfair" to Multi-billion-dollar Multi-national corporations to restrict their ability to influence the political process with their vast cash reserves.
Make no mistake, despite the mis-representations by Justice Kennedy, Corporations were NEVER denied access to a platform from which to express their political viewpoint in the "marketplace of ideas." Corporations and the industries of which they are a part were (and are) free to form PACs, to donate money (but not tax-deductible corporate funds) to them, and to use them to promote whatever messages they chose.
Individual employees of corporations - many of those in the highest echelons making millions of dollars a year - were free to use as much of their vast personal wealth as they chose to support these PACs, as well as make individual contributions to candidates.
All that had happened was that lawmakers, realizing the enormous power the vast wealth resources conveys in a world where political campaigns run on money, thought it would be more "fair" to restrict corporations from mounting overwhelming media campaigns of propagaqnda - that may or may not be truthful - in the last two months before an election. The PACs could still run such campaigns, but Corporations themselves could not run or directly fund them with Corporate funds.
Holding that corporations have the same "rights" to try and influence election results as individuals, under the protection of the First Amendment is an absurd argument.
In the first place, the Bill of Rights was intended to apply to citizens - people who can vote, can serve to protect our country, are accountable to our laws and can be punished by imprisonment for transgressing those laws, who live and die. Corporations can do none of those things.
The notion that they should have all the rights of citizens - while bearing none of the responsibilities - is a self-serving distortion of the Framers' intent which the Robber Barons of the late 19th Century first paid to have written into law in the 1870s and 80s.
In the second place,claiming to create a "fair" playing field, where corporation A is allowed to spend millions of dollars to influence the the outcome of an election out of corporate funds, the spending of which actually reduces their tax liability (and hence is partly underwritten by their fellow taxpayers) while the electorate has to depend on what can be voluntarily raised among the general public in non-deductible contributions is absurd. It's like saying that the only "fair" contest between David and Goliath is one where they both are allowed to use the identical fifty pound club - which of course, only Goliath can swing - while David has no "sling."
These (and other) arguments are brilliantly laid out in Justice Stevens's eloquent, clear and fully- and carefully-documented rebuttal in his dissent, where he also discusses the question of why the Majority demanded to rehear the case, raising issues that weren't even presented in the original brief, in order to make a sweeping decision that wipes out 100 years of carefully- and painstakingly-established precedent, with wanton disregard for the principal of "stare decisis" - respect for established precedent and law .
As Steven's points out, this is judicial activism at its most blatant and most destructive. You can download and read the whole decision: Kennedy's lame and often innaccurate rationalization and Stevens's careful, point-by-point rebuttal, rigorously documented - at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf . At 183 pages of heavily-footnoted legalese, it's rough going, but that's another one of the responsibilities of citizenship - getting the facts, and making up your own mind.
This decision is a stunning body-blow to democracy, issuing a license for the richest of the rich to spend their opponents under the table, to clog the airwaves, print media, internet and any and every other media venue with messages - whether honest or completely dishonest - that serve their ends, in an blitz leading up to election day
But the situation, although grave, is not hopeless. It is possible to pass a constitutional amendment that specifically limits the "rights" guaranteed by the Constitution to individuals only - not to imaginary "legal entities." This would once and for all destroy the fiction that has allowed Corporations to thrive (and many are doing so right now, in the midst of our "financial crisis") at the expense of ordinary citizens. Visit http://www.dontgetrolled.org to find out the story and how to get involved.
As B. Franklin said, the legacy passed down to us by our founders was "A republic... if you can keep it." Now is your chance to get involved in a real fight for freedom and democracy - a fight to "keep" our republic.